The US is a major world power. It’s clear that pivots of the US foreign policy impact developments across the world. Thus, it’s important to know what the US is doing and going to do. SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence team is continuing to provide exclusive reviews of the US official attitude over crucial world events and developments.
Written by Costas Ioannou exclusively for SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence; Edited by Rachel Lane
On Mar 14, two Los Angeles class submarines arrived at U.S. Navy Ice Camp Sargo, a temporary station on top of a floating ice sheet in the Arctic, as part of Ice Exercise(ICEX) 2016.
USS Hartford(SSN 768) from Groton, Connecticut, and USS Hampton(SSN 767) from San Diego will conduct multiple arctic transits, a North Pole surfacing, scientific data collection and other training evolutions during their time in the region.
ICEX 2016 is a five-week exercise designed to assess the operational readiness of the submarine force while also continuing to advance scientific research in the arctic region. The Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory, based in San Diego, serves as the lead organization for coordinating, planning and executing the exercise involving two submarines, multiple nations and more than 200 participants.
Submarines have conducted under-ice operations in the Arctic region for more than 50 years. USS Nautilus(SSN 571) made the first transit in 1958. USS Skate(SSN 578) was the first U.S. submarine to surface through arctic ice at the North Pole in March, 1959. USS Sargo(SSN 583), which the temporary ice camp is named after, was the first submarine to make a winter Bering Strait transit in 1960.
Since those events, the U.S. Submarine Force has completed more than 26 Arctic exercises. ICEX 2016 is the latest exercise demonstrating the important and unique role the Submarine Force plays in implementing the U.S Department of Defence’s Arctic strategy.
On Mar 14, joint, interagency and multinational sustainment experts gathered in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for Angkor Opening 2016, a weeklong exchange and table top exercise designed to build partnerships, interoperability and readiness in humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) port opening operations.
The exercise, hosted by the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and sponsored by the 8th Theatre Sustainment Command and the Cambodian National Committee for Maritime Safety(NCMS), is the first exchange of its kind between the organizations.
The U.S. contingent of participants includes experts from U.S. Transportation Command, 8th TSC, 130th Theatre Engineer Brigade, 9th Mission Support Command, 593rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), 7th Transportation Battalion (Expeditionary), 413th Contracting Support Brigade, Army divers, and a U.S. Navy Underwater Construction Team.
During the table top exercise, a HA/DR scenario triggered NCMS planning for port opening operations at both fixed port and bare beach locations, creating a critical need for synchronized cooperation of participants expertise and capabilities.
Angkor Opening 16 also featured an industry event welcoming industry representatives and encouraging increased communication and understanding between industry and military partners in the region, and a military diver academic expert exchange at Cambodia’s Sihanoukville Port to provide a cooperative understanding of partner nations military diver capabilities and missions.
Dorman said the opportunities for exchange and rehearsing HA/DR-driven port opening capabilities lay the foundation for future exchanges and sets the conditions for further partnership with joint, interagency and multinational teammates.
On Mar 18, the U.S Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and Republic of Korea military forces wrapped up Exercise Ssang Yong 2016 (SY 16) while underway off the coast of ROK.
Ssang Yong, or “twin dragons” in Korean, is a biennial amphibious-assault exercise conducted in the Indo-Asia region with U.S., and ROK Navy and Marine Corps in order to strengthen interoperability and working relationships across the range of military operations from disaster relief to complex expeditionary missions.
Nearly 9,200 U.S. Marines of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and 3,100 U.S. Navy personnel of Expeditionary Strike Group 7 joined forces with 4,500 ROK Marines, 3,000 ROK Navy personnel, 100 Royal Australian Army Soldiers and 60 Royal New Zealand Army Soldiers for the amphibious exercise.
During the 10-day exercise the U.S.-ROK Blue-Green team conducted more than 220 flight operations and over 240 craft operations.
The exercise commenced with a 19-ship photo exercise to include ships from the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and Boxer Amphibious Ready Group along with COMFLOT 5.
The Blue-Green team kicked into high gear to carry out rehearsals for a simulated amphibious assault mission, where nearly 17,000 service members from the U.S., ROK, New Zealand and Australia participated in an amphibious landing on the beaches of Pohang.
Lastly, the force conducted Assault Follow On Echelon exercises involving M1A1 Abrams tanks from Marine Delta Company 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division along with members of the 6th Royal Australian Regiment and a Fuelling at Sea between amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh(CG 67), during which the large LHD transferred nearly 10,000 gallons of fuel to the cruiser, closing out the exercise.
Assets of the BOXARG who joined the BHRESG in SY 16 included amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) with PHIBRON 1 embarked, amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans(LPD 18), amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry(LSD 49), and the 13th MEU 4th Marines, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 1st Tank Battalion and I MEF Crisis Response Force Company.
Amphibious assault ship ROKS Dokdo(LPH-6111), amphibious landing ship ROKS Cheon Wang Bong(LST 686), Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin-class and destroyer ROKS Munmu the Great(DDH 976) are among the ROK assets that participated in the exercise.
The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, comprised of the flagship Bonhomme Richard and amphibious dock landing ships USS Germantown (LSD 42) and USS Ashland (LSD 48), is conducting a routine patrol in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility along with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
On Mar 14, U.S Defence Secretary Ash Carter and Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon agreed today to increased cooperation in the cyber domain to enhance their nations’ cyber defence capabilities.
In a statement summarizing a meeting between the two defence leaders at the Pentagon, Cook said Carter reaffirmed the unshakeable U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and the importance of the U.S.-Israeli defence relationship.
Following Yaalon’s October visit to Washington, Cook said, the secretary and the minister discussed a number of ways to further strengthen cooperation on a range of issues, including regional security.
Carter and Yaalon also discussed developments in the region and agreed to continue to work closely to maintain the strength of the U.S.-Israeli relationship.
On Mar 16, Iraqi security forces detained 149 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters as the terrorists tried to blend in with 35,000 civilians fleeing numerous small villages along the Euphrates River Valley.
As part of Operation Desert Lynx with help from U.S.-led coalition aircraft, the Iraqi security forces dropped leaflets last week in small villages to communicate with residents while trying to reduce civilian casualties and weaken ISIL morale.
The leaflets gave villagers safety instructions and warned ISIL that Iraq’s Counterterrorism Service Lions are close. The leaflet drop likely was one of several factors that got word to villagers, he said, noting that radio and television service remains operational.
The evacuees received life-saving assistance from the Iraqi government and many humanitarian organizations.
ISIL Fighters Die in Police Station Fight
Iraqi security forces and coalition air support killed about 50 ISIL fighters in a small town north of Ramadi in a counterattack after ISIL forces briefly seized a police station.
Highlighting the U.S.-led coalition’s Iraq train-and-equip program, ongoing training has produced more than 20,000 trained security members since the effort began. The training provided Iraqi forces with skills and equipment to succeed on the battlefield, Warren said. Particularly noteworthy, he added, is training the coalition has provided Iraqi special operations forces.
The commando course in Baghdad recently graduated 459 special operations trainees, he said. The eight-week course trains special operations forces in marksmanship, urban combat, close-quarters battle and battlefield medicine. Iraqis taught the course with coalition advisors who acted as mentors.
On Mar 17, military leaders are reviewing recommendations on the way forward in Afghanistan before presenting them to U.S President Barack Obama, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the situation in Afghanistan is challenging. He added that assessments by the current commander in the country Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. and the previous commander Army Gen. John F. Campbell are realistic and that the Taliban remain a threat for the U.S.
The chairman told the Senate committee that military officials are examining the lessons learned in 2015 and will apply those to Afghanistan operations in 2016. Dunford, who recently visited Afghanistan, said the mission now is to help Afghan security forces secure their country. There are around 9,800 American troops in the country and another 3,000 coalition troops.
On Mar 19 U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
Strikes in Syria
Fighter aircraft conducted one strike in Syria:
- Near Ayn Isa, a strike destroyed an ISIL rocket position and an ISIL mortar position.
Strikes in Iraq
Rocket artillery, ground attack, bomber and fighter aircraft conducted 25 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:
- Near Al Baghdadi, four strikes struck two ISIL bed-down locations and two ISIL staging areas.
- Near Al Huwayja, a strike destroyed an ISIL anti-air artillery piece.
- Near Fallujah, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units.
- Near Hit, seven strikes struck an ISIL training camp, two ISIL car bomb factories, an ISIL bomb factory, two ISIL tactical units, destroyed an ISIL tunnel, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL supply cache, and an ISIL car bomb.
- Near Kisik, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL bunker and two ISIL assembly areas.
- Near Mosul, six strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL assembly area, an ISIL supply cache, and three ISIL vehicles, and damaged an ISIL-used bridge section and suppressed an ISIL fighting position.
- Near Qayyarah, a strike destroyed an ISIL mortar position and an ISIL vehicle.
- Near Sinjar, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle and suppressed an ISIL fighting position.